Warning: Irony alert. People without a sense of humour should proceed with caution.
Some time ago the National Geographic did a piece on the connection between the introduction of caffeinated drinks into Europe and the Industrial Revolution.
It’s hardly a coincidence that coffee and tea caught on in Europe just as the first factories were ushering in the industrial revolution. The widespread use of caffeinated drinks—replacing the ubiquitous beer—facilitated the great transformation of human economic endeavor from the farm to the factory. Boiling water to make coffee or tea helped decrease the incidence of disease among workers in crowded cities. And the caffeine in their systems kept them from falling asleep over the machinery. In a sense, caffeine is the drug that made the modern world possible. And the more modern our world gets, the more we seem to need it. Without that useful jolt of coffee—or Diet Coke or Red Bull—to get us out of bed and back to work, the 24-hour society of the developed world couldn’t exist. — National Geographic
If this is so, then, of course, my incessantly wandering mind must put two and two together. If caffeine was an essential ingredient to bring about the Industrial Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution brought about widespread environmental destruction and climate change, then… that’s it… caffeine is bringing us to the brink of disaster!
Electricity, combined with caffeine, keeps us up late at night – when in pre-industrial times it would have been lights out hours ago. We’re no longer ‘burning the candle at both ends’, but rather the coal-fired power station that lights our homes and powers our televisions through the sunless hours.
And the next day – how does the day begin for most of us? Out of our beds we emerge like the walking dead from a B-grade zombie movie, until we reach for our kick-start-in-a-cup, and begin the cycle again.
Caffeine not only fueled the Industrial Revolution, but the Industrial Revolution and caffeine together saw the demise of the siesta – the mid-afternoon power-nap that was common in many parts of the world, including northern Europe.
And here’s another misunderstanding about siestas. It’s not really a Mediterranean invention — it’s just that those southern European countries have had the good sense to preserve the tradition.
Before the industrial revolution and fixed working hours, it would have been perfectly normal in northern Europe for people to take an afternoon sleep…. – BBC
We’ve written about factory farming several times on this site, and how our industry attempts at efficiency are back-firing in disease. Our industrial mindset takes a biological creature, like a chicken, and puts it into an industrial setting – trying to… er… squeeze out the maximum ‘widgets per chicken-hour’ (in this case, eggs) as possible. We treat the animal like a machine, and when it doesn’t operate as we want, we pump it with drugs until it does. It’s unnatural, and it’s unhealthy.
In a similar way, it’s interesting how we, also a biological creature, are applying this same template to ourselves – patterning ourselves after the machines we’ve created. Our economy is about widgets per man-hour, mathematics, and supposed efficiency. We’re bending our body’s biological clock to fit a schedule dictated by a mechanical clock on the wall, and we’re the only creatures on the planet to do so. Recent studies are proving that our bodies know best.
To reverse environmental degradation, won’t we need to slow down?
While you guys are rolling this around in your mind and thinking how to comment on this, I’m going to go and have forty winks, and come back at peak efficiency.